A lathe machine is used for turning wood to make spindles, bowls and a variety of other items. Three types of cutting tools are used to achieve differing results. Most basic cutting tools are made from carbon steel or high-speed steel. High-speed steel cutting tools were originally designed for machining metal but have since been adopted for wood turning because they retain their edge longer on wood than carbon steel tools.
Scrapers come in a variety of sizes and five standard shaped ends: square nose, left skew, right skew, round nose and half round. Scrapers are used in bowl turning or other projects where the grain of the wood is constantly changing. Scrapers are also used to smooth and blend curves or to create fine details.
Chisels usually have double-bevelled ends and are smaller than scrapers. The standard cutting edge of a chisel is either square or skewed on a straight angle. A nonstandard chisel has a curved skew, which is used by wood turners with advanced skills. A skew chisel is used immediately after roughing-out to make a planning cut that produces a smooth surface. Chisels are held at a 45 degree angle to the axes of the lathe.
A set of narrow chisels called parting tools are used for creating and separating waste material at the ends of a piece of work. Parting tools have ends that are fluted, waisted, rectangular or square. Creating waste is performed following the planning of the piece.
Gouges come in three distinct styles for specific uses. A bowl gouge has a deep 'U' cutting edge or a three-quarter circle cutting edge. Gouges, as with all wood turning tools, come in a variety of sizes. It is the shape that defines the tool.
Spindle gouges are similar to bowl gouges but have much larger flutes. The cutting edge shape of a spindle gouge is termed as fingernail shaped or a half ellipse. Spindles gouges are used to make the details in the spindle, such as a 'V' cut, a bead, a cove or a pummel.
Roughing-out gouges are used in the first stages of spindle turning and are much larger than bowl or spindle gouges. A roughing-out gouge is usually the first tool used, especially in spindle turning. A spindle starts as a square length of wood and is rounded with a roughing-out gouge, leaving a rough but curved surface.